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Stinky Car? Top Tips to Restore the New Car Smell

man cleaning seat with weathertech leather cleaner

With spring on the way, fresh breezes are finally making a comeback. If you find yourself holding your breath as you drive, you may need to scope out your vehicle and find the source. Read on for our top tips on getting rid of common offensive odors in your vehicle!

Spilled Milk

We’ve all seen it — the dropped sippy cup, the leaky baby bottle, or that sharp turn on the way home from the grocery store that upended a full gallon. To remove the sour stink, wash any floor mats or seat covers that you can and treat the carpeting with shampoo or a steam cleaner. If this does not remove the smell, alternating cleaners, such as vinegar or baking soda, may break down the odor. Airing out the car is also important, as the sun can help reduce the smell and dry any remaining milk.

Accidents from Pets or Children

Accidents happen, but they can create an even bigger problem if they soak into upholstery or carpeting. To avoid the smell, clean up any messes as soon as they happen. If the accident is dry and set in, spray the area with a vinegar and water mixture, and then use a wet/dry vacuum to clean the area. Use an enzyme spray for vomit or urine to help break down lingering odors. Once dry, airing out or sprinkling baking soda can help reduce odors further.


If you’ve accidentally left your window open in a rain storm, you may have experienced a funky mildew smell on your ride to work. To get rid of the odor, simply use a wet/dry vacuum (or even a hair dryer) to dry up any remaining dampness in your vehicle, and then use activated charcoal bags to absorb the scent. Airing out your car on a nice breezy day may also help dry it out.

Air Conditioner Funk

After a long winter, your AC might be a little musty. To reduce the funk, pop the cover off of your air conditioning to reach the filter. Use a small brush to clean any mold growth from the filter, and then gently dry and replace it. If the air conditioner has caused any dampness in your vehicle, treat this with an anti-mildew solution or baking soda. If dust is the culprit, vacuum out the vents and then wipe them down with a gentle cleaning solution.

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